Do people naturally assume that ambiguity is going to be negative? A new brain study. | The Oxford Review - OR Briefings

Do people naturally assume that ambiguity is going to be negative? A new brain study.

Research Briefing

Keywords: ambiguity, uncertainty, emotion regulation, habituation, brain science

Some people struggle with uncertainty and ambiguity more than others. The question as to what makes the difference between people who automatically have a negative response to uncertainty and ambiguity and people who either have a neutral or positive response to such situations is an important one.

Previous studies have found that, despite a range of reactions to ambiguity and uncertainty (from wholly negative through to positive), the initial cognitive and emotional response is always negative. Studies in 2016 found that reaction times to ambiguous situations are significantly longer when an individual has a positive response to it compared to people who have immediate negative response. This suggests there is some additional processing going on in the brain, it is assumed, in order to turn the initial response to the ambiguous situation into a positive one.

Get the full research briefing including all references


About our research briefings


Not a member?

Apply to join now and get:


  1. Weekly research briefings sent direct to you every week
  2. A copy of the Oxford Review containing between twelve and sixteen additional research briefings every month
  3. Research Infographics
  4. Video research briefings.
  5. Special reports / short literature reviews on topics that appear to be getting a lot of research attention or if there has been a recent shift in the thinking or theory
  6. The ability to request a watch list for new research in keyword areas (as long as it is within the realms of:
    1. Leadership
    2. Management
    3. Human resources (not legal aspects)
    4. Organisational development
    5. Organisational change
    6. Organisational learning
    7. Learning and development,
    8. Coaching
    9. Work Psychology
    10. Decision making
  7. Request specific research / brief literature reviews
  8. Access to the entire archive of previous research briefings, copies of the Oxford Review, infographics, video research briefings and special reports.
  9. Access to Live Reports – continually updated as new research on the topic is released
  10. Members only podcasts – research briefings in audio – coming soon
  11. Live continually updated reports


Be the most up-to-date person in the room

Apply to join now

Be impressively well informed


Get the very latest research intelligence briefings, video research briefings, infographics and more sent direct to you as they are published

Be the most impressively well-informed and up-to-date person around...

Powered by ConvertKit
Like what you see? Help us spread the word